Care for the Elderly: Who Will Do It?

By 2030, 72.1 million adults over age 65 will live in the U.S. That’s more than twice the number of older adults in 2005 and 20% of the projected population. But living longer doesn’t necessarily mean living healthier.

According to a 2007 report on The State of Aging and Health in America from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), 80% of older adults live with chronic health conditions. Who will care for the elderly?

Informal Care for the Elderly Still the Norm

Less than a century ago, many women worked inside the home, caring for their children and, when the time came, their elderly parents. Even though far more women work outside the home today, women still represent the majority of caregivers.*

Unpaid (sometimes called informal) caregivers provide most of the supportive care services in the U.S. As medical and home health technology advances, and hospital stays and Medicaid funding shrink, this trend will continue. According to Helga Walz, PhD, “planning for future elder care is just as important as planning for health insurance and financial security.”

Community-Based Care for the Elderly

Many aging Americans take steps for future care while they are still in good health. For example, some seniors move to continuing care retirement communities (CCRCs), which provide independent living but also offer assisted living and skilled nursing facilities on the same campus.

Since most seniors prefer to age in their own communities, close to family and friends, these innovative neighborhoods provide creative solutions. Aging in place” neighborhoods pool resources for an annual fee and provide services such as transportation, household help, nurse visits and access to a geriatric care manager.

Some operate as co-ops, non-profits or with government-based funds. A growing number of seniors turn to co-housing communities, where residents plan to age together and participate actively in the creation and operation of an intentional neighborhood.

Alternative Care for the Elderly

A growing number of employers recognize the toll caring for the elderly takes on job performance (missed hours, loss of productivity, absenteeism) and offer telecommuting options for caregivers and eldercare as an employee benefit.

The American Red Cross, many hospitals and other nonprofits offer training for sandwich-generation adult caregivers. Caregivers who need a break can shift some of the weight to home-based care services (including housekeeping, meals, personal care, skilled nursing and adult day care) and even geriatric care managers—for a price.

Adult day care and home health aides are good alternatives for aging seniors who need extra help with medications and personal care but prefer to live as independently as possible. Elder-friendly technology can help to extend independent living through telemedicine, emergency response systems and monitoring. As a result of these trends, even nursing homes are changing to keep up with the demand for less institutionalized care for the elderly and more privatized settings.

Find Care for the Elderly

Whether you are considering community-based care at an assisted living facility, nursing home or continuing care retirement community, or want less formal care for the elderly such as home care or adult day care, our nationwide directory can help you in your search to find senior housing and senior care.

Written by senior housing writer Lisa Logan, PhD.

*McGuire, L.C. et al. “Report from the CDC: Supportive Care Needs of Americans: A Major Issue for Women as Both Recipients and Providers.” Journal of Women’s Health 16.6 (2007): 784.